Posted on 16/07/2021

#Ecotourism #Argentina

Argentina's Rewilding Project Saved Giant River Otters From Going Extinct

Conservationists are currently celebrating in Argentina as three giant river otter cubs have been born. This may not seem like much, but that particular species of otter had been declared extinct in Argentina. The cubs were born thanks to the country's massive rewilding project in Argentina's wetlands. This news has brought a ray of hope for the species and also helps towards more opportunities for sustainable ecotourism in the area.

Conservationists are currently celebrating in Argentina as three giant river otter cubs have been born. This may not seem like much, but that particular species of otter had been declared extinct in Argentina. The cubs were born thanks to the country's massive rewilding project in Argentina's wetlands. This news has brought a ray of hope for the species and also helps towards more opportunities for sustainable ecotourism in the area.

The Birth of Three Giant River Otter Cubs

The Birth of Three Giant River Otter Cubs

© GoWildPhotography / Shutterstock

Back in May, three giant river otter cubs were born in Iberá wetlands, Argentina after being gone for decades. These birth are significant and a small step in reviving the species by by the local Corrientes province government, the National Parks Administration and the Rewilding Argentina Foundation, one of the conservation groups founded by Kris and the late Doug Tompkins to restore wild areas of Chile and Argentina with money from their retail companies, The North Face, Esprit and Patagonia.

"These three cubs are the first that were born in our country in decades and represent the hope to recover a species in Argentina," said Talía Zamboni, a biologist for Rewilding Argentina. "The project being carried out in Iberá is the only one of its kind, never before has there been an attempt to return the giant otter to a place where it had disappeared due to manmade causes."

Also known as choker wolves, they are the largest species of otter, they can reach up to six feet (1.8 metres) long. These otters used to roam in large numbers in the Amazon Basin. These predators died out due to decades of hunting and habitat destruction, mainly the conversion of grassland for timber. The species is classified as endangered globally and extinct in Argentina and Uruguay.

Slowly but surely, the situation is getting better. The otter had been sighted for the first time in 40 years back in May. They were spotted in Parque Nacional El Impenetrable (El Impenetrable National Park), which is a massive stretch of wilderness that used to be under threat in the Gran Chaco forest. Thanks to conversationalists, it has been transformed into a sustainable tourism hub. After the first sighting, the three cubs were born to Coco and Alondra, who are two giant river otters that were reintroduced to the wetlands, in Ibera Park.

Argentina's environment minister Juan Cabandié said the reintroduction of the species brings hope to the future of the area. "It also brings new development possibilities to Iberá through wildlife observation ecotourism, which is today one of the leading economic activities in the Province of Corrientes," he added. "It brings back local pride and identity, as these species were part of the culture of the place."

It's Important for the Ecosystem

It's Important for the Ecosystem

© Martin Pelanek / Shutterstock

The giant river otter was one of the top predators in northern Argentina's wetlands, meaning their presence was vital to the ecosystem. Following studies, scientists suggest that their reintroduction should have a significant impact on the ecosystem's structure, helping control populations and balancing the food chain without human intervention.

The giant river otter isn't the only reintroduction planned by Argentina's big rewilding project. They also plan on reintroducing jaguars, marsh deer, red-and-green macaws, anteaters, lowland tapirs, yellow anacondas, black alligators and collared peccaries to the Ibera wetlands.

Iberá wetlands is one of the world's largest freshwater reserves and is home to over 4,000 different species of flora and fauna. 30% of Argentina's biodiversity resides in those wetlands. After being threatened 20 years ago, it is now one of South America's greatest ecotourism projects. Indeed visitors can observe the wildlife while hiking through the various nature trails as well as ride boats on the lagoon and waterways.

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Une publication partagée par Fundacio?n Rewilding Argentina (@rewilding_argentina)

Other Progress

Important environmental happenings are going on in the south of Argentina too. In Tierra del Fuego province, a bill was passed in June that bans salmon farming in open pen nets. This bill will help protect the marine ecosystem. Argentina is the first country to introduce this kind of ban. This bill is a massive step in the right direction as the region's ecosystem is fragile and numerous species are threatened like the Southern river otter, the humpback whale and Southern steamer duck.

There are hopes that Chile will introduce a similar ban in regions like Los Lagos and Magallanes and in the Parque Nacional Kawésqar National and the Parque Nacional Alberto de Agostini.where intensive salmon farming happens.

David Alday, a representative of the Yagán community (the original inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego) from Puerto Williams in Chile said, "we are not just fighting for our community but for decisions that will have positive effects on a global scale. I see 30 years from now an abundant archipelago full of biodiversity and surrounded by national parks. Being optimistic, I see this area as an example for the universe."